Exotic invasive plant species differ in their effects on indigenous vegetation as evidenced by research evaluating community response to their removal. We used a removal approach to quantify the response of a mesic woodland to the removal versus retention of an invasive plant, Hesperis matronalis (dame's rocket) from paired treatment plots over 3 y. Cover of H. matronalis did not differ between control and treatment plots prior to removal, declined in the removal plots and remained significantly lower in cover compared to the control plots. Removal did not significantly affect species richness and species diversity (evenness, Shannon and Simpson) at the plot scale, but did result in increased species richness overall in the removal plots in the last sampling year when compared to control plots. Non-metric multidimensional scaling ordination analysis indicated a significant compositional change in the spring plant composition of plots over the 3 y, reflecting an increase in exotic woody species. Exotic woody plants, especially Rosa multiflora and Euonymus alatus, increased in cover in response to H. matronalis removal. In the 3 y, neither native nor exotic forbs, nor native woody plants responded to the removal of H. matronalis in a statistically significant manner. The increasing cover of woody invasive plants in response to the removal of H. matronalis has important management implications for restoration of degraded communities.